Remembering in the Present Tense

I loved reading the homework last week. I loved reading about visits to the food bank to deliver food; visits to the emergency room to deliver books; and visits to neighbors to deliver cookies. I loved reading about (and tasting) your family traditions. I noticed that as children remembered on paper (the work of memoir) the things they did, they tucked in so many of our writing lessons. They were alliterative, they compared, they listed, they painted pictures with words, and they were precise. They wrote as writers.

I also loved reading the comments on this blog. My niece commented last week (very flattering to an aunt). I’d written about the tradition of baking cookies with my paternal grandmother. She wrote about a tradition with her grandmother, my mother. My mother makes Antipasto every year. As with many edible traditions, there is a story behind it. She wrote the story down ten years ago:

Christmas Antipasto
Mother and I spent Christmas of 1953 together in her new house in Honolulu. My main memory of that Christmas season is of Jasper and Izzy Holmes’ annual cocktail party in their house at 6 Blackpoint Road, the very house that we had rented 20 years earlier when I was five, and which I remembered very well. Mother, who loved any party, was particularly excited about this one–an annual event for which Izzy produced her special antipasto in great quantity. Mother told me that she had tried in every way she could think of to get Izzy to share the recipe, but Izzy always refused. Mother was not ordinarily a “food” person, so I knew this must be an extraordinary delicacy. Indeed, it was unlike any other hors d’oeuvre I’d had before, and it was delicious.

Time and a half went by, and Mother, who returned permanently to the mainland in 1956 to be nearer her children and baby granddaughter, settled into an apartment in the building next to us in the Donna Lee complex at Bailey’s Crossroads. She had with her Izzy’s recipe for antipasto. “How did you get it?” I exclaimed with wonder. “On pain of death, if I ever breathed it to a soul,” she replied. It wasn’t very hard for me to get it out of her, and I entered it into a woman’s club cookbook, so that I would always know where to find it.

IZZY’S ANTIPASTO
Serve with crackers or on lettuce

1/2 cup catsup
2 small cans flat anchovies
1/2 cup olive oil
1 can tomato sauce
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic
1 jar pickled onions
1 small can sliced mushrooms
1/2 cup slightly cooked carrots
1/2 cup thinly sliced cooked celery
1 cup diced sweet pickles (mixed)
1 cup slightly cooked cauliflower pieces
1 can pitted ripe olives, sliced or diced
1 jar stuffed green olives, sliced
1 small jar tiny artichoke hearts, optional
2 cans solid white tuna
1/4 cup capers
l tsp. salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 tsp chili powder
1 bay leaf
Few drops Tabasco
Few dashes Worcester or soy sauce

In large skillet stir catsup, olive oil, tomato sauce, vinegar,
wine, and bay leaf. Cut anchovies in half and add with their
oil. Press peeled garlic and add. Bring to boil and boil for 2
minutes on medium heat, stirring a bit. Remove from fire and add seasoning a little at a time, testing to our own palate. Drain and discard liquids from other ingredients. Toss together and blend with sauce. Check seasoning, bring to boil and remove immediately from fire, and cool. Store in refrigerator in jars.
Makes 4-1/2 pints.

Marcel Proust took a bite out of cookie and remembered everything he ever did. Okay, that is really over simplifying Remembrance of Things Past— and it wasn’t a cookie, it was a madeleine–but it shows how taste can transport us. In Proustian time, the past pervades the present in an instant with a tiny taste of a childhood treat. I know it will happen for me with antipasto on a cracker before Christmas dinner. It always does.

About Annie Campbell

Annie Campbell is a National Board Certified third grade teacher and loves her work. She especially enjoys teaching children how to be enthusiastic readers, writers, and problem solvers. Every year, she hopes to inspire her students to be committed citizens who know they can make a difference in the world around them. When she is not teaching, Annie enjoys cooking for family and friends; she likes to lose herself in a good book; she loves discovering new ideas, restaurants, perfect picnic places, and movies with her husband, Ben.
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